In September, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issued a warning about top-loading Samsung washing machines after reports that some of the washers have exploded. Unfortunately, not everyone who owns a Samsung washer got the word, because in the first week of October, another Samsung washing machine exploded in Plano, Texas. According to Plano resident John Stark, the top of his washer blew off and the sides warped as the machine continued to fill with water for the spin cycle. Flying debris reportedly caused other damages.
The explosions have also generated a federal class action lawsuit against Samsung that was filed in September. The lawsuit claims that the machines vibrate under heavy loads “resulting in a dramatic centrifugal explosion that destroys the machine and nearby property.” The lawsuit also charges that Samsung has been aware of the problem for years but has done little to warn customers.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission said that it is “actively and cooperatively working with Samsung to address safety issues related to certain top-load washing machines made between March 2011 and April 2016.” The CPSC did not indicate which washing machine models are potentially dangerous, but the lawsuit claims that Samsung has produced eleven defective models.
WHAT OTHER SAMSUNG PRODUCTS HAVE CAUSED INJURIES?
This news about Samsung’s washing machines comes only weeks after the company recalled its Galaxy Note 7 cellphone after the device reportedly exploded in pockets, purses, cars, and even on airplanes. In fact, if you own a Samsung Galaxy Note 7 smartphone, turn the device off immediately. The CPSC says consumers should “stop using and power down” the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 right now. In September, federal regulators recalled approximately one million Note 7 smartphones after dozens of users reported that the device exploded into flames.
Samsung is already suffering financially. Its stock dropped ten percent over a three-day period in October. In mid-October, the company cut its outlook for third-quarter operating profit and sales. Chaiwon Lee, chief investment officer at Korea Value Asset Management in Seoul, told the Chicago Tribune, “Given the facts that I have, the company is unlikely to post solid earnings for the fourth quarter.”
WHAT IS SAMSUNG’S RESPONSE TO THE REPORTS OF EXPLODING WASHERS?
Samsung, as you might have expected, declined to discuss any pending legal actions, but the company did release a statement on its website regarding the Consumer Product Safety Commission warning about its washing machines. Both the CPSC and Samsung recommend that owners of the company’s top-loading washers should use the lower speeds, especially when washing bulky or water-resistant items. The delicate cycle is specifically recommended, Samsung said, because “There have been no reported incidents when using this cycle.”
Samsung additionally called the reports of washing machine explosions “rare” and added, “It is important to note that Samsung customers have completed hundreds of millions of loads without incident since 2011.” The class action lawsuit against Samsung, however, arrives at a quite different conclusion. The lawsuit includes photos of the tops blown off of washing machines and photos of considerable damage to walls and nearby items.
Melissa Thaxton, one of the plaintiffs in the class action suit, was standing next to her washer when it exploded, and her 4-year-old son was playing nearby. She told ABC News, “It was the loudest sound. It sounded like a bomb went off in my ear.” Thaxton also said, “There were wires, nuts, the cover actually was laying on the floor.” The class-action lawsuit claims, “Samsung knowingly, affirmatively and actively misrepresented and concealed the true character, quality and nature of the washing machines and sold the washing machines into the stream of commerce as if they were safe for use.”
The lawsuit also urges Samsung to take “corrective action” by announcing a nationwide recall, halting the production and distribution of the defective washing machines, and publicizing the impending class action lawsuit to the public. The lawsuit additionally claims that Samsung officials destroyed evidence proving that they were aware for years of the problems related to the defective washers.
HAVE SAMSUNG’S WASHING MACHINES BEEN RECALLED ELSEWHERE?
This is not the first time that Samsung washers have been the subject of media and government scrutiny, and the company’s history with exploding items is troubling. In April 2013, Samsung launched one of Australia’s largest-ever consumer recalls – involving about 150,000 washing machines sold in Australia from 2010 through 2013 – after scores of the Samsung washers exploded and apparently caused a series of house fires.
Samsung initially offered thousands of Australian washing machine owners a repair kit – which included a plastic bag and a roll of tape. Samsung now admits that the repair kit itself caused at least two house fires. And since the recall began in Australia, at least another three hundred incidents related to the defective washing machines, including more house fires, have been reported.
While there’s only a “warning” regarding the Samsung top-loading washers in the U.S., and not (yet) a recall, Australia’s experience proves that even nationwide recalls can be problematic. Mistakes can happen, and a recalled item can sometimes remain in a store and on sale for weeks. If you’ve been injured or if you are injured in the future by any exploding washing machine, cell phone, or any other defective consumer product in Illinois, speak at once with an experienced Chicago product liability attorney regarding your legal rights and options.
Those injured by dangerous or defective consumer products in the state of Illinois are entitled under the law to full compensation for all their medical expenses, lost income, and all other injury-related damages, but they’ll have to prove that they were injured – and that the product’s defect directly caused that injury. An experienced Chicago product liability attorney will be able to help.
When a product recall is announced in the U.S., owners should receive recall notifications by mail, but many may receive no notification whatsoever. Thousands more receive notifications only weeks after the recall is announced. When you receive a recall notification, take the product back to where you purchased it, and the defect will be repaired or the part or item will be replaced. Stay abreast of current recalls and warnings by checking the CPSC website; many local TV stations also post product recall information online. Don’t count on receiving notifications of product recalls or warnings. The person most responsible for your safety, of course, is you.